Site hosted by Build your free website today!

"A new reign of tyranny and mutation by Blue Oyster Cult"

By Wallace McBride

Heaven Forbid marks the return of Blue Oyster Cult to the studio format, an arena the band hasn't seriously graced since 1986's Club Ninja (as most fans would tell you, 1988's Imaginos was a solo album by the band's former drummer featuring overdubs by the rest of BOC). It's obvious, even to a casual listener, that the oyster boys have no intention of letting their career die without a knock-down, drag-out fight. Everything the band is capable of doing is present on this album, from the thunder and rage of See You In Black, to the tongue-in-cheek X-Files lampoon Real World. If the dimming pilot light of Blue Oyster Cult's career finally dies in 1998, it won't be from laziness or incompetence on the band's part.
The album kicks off with a song that might crush all preconceived notions of the band. See You In Black, a murderous anthem attacking domestic violence, claims the title of 'winner and new champion' of heaviest BOC song, and might make fans temporarily forget the flaming cities and giant lizards that dominate the band's popular catalog.
Even more startling is how fast the album consistently changes pace. Black's screaming distortion and muted rhythms give way to the far more melodic, restrained sounds of Harvest Moon. This song, about a cursed Latin-American village, even manages to change pace, not just once, but twice, as it explodes into one of Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser's fastest studio solos. The song's structure is reminiscent of their 1976 hit (Don't Fear) The Reaper, but the similarity is probably due more to the song writer's nature rather than any conscious attempt to recycle success.
BOC's story-telling habits return with a vengeance on this album and will probably earn comparisons to 1981's Fire of Unknown Origin, despite the two albums having very little in common. Half of the ten core songs on the album tell coherent stories, populated by a hateful prison escapee with murder on his mind, a washed up actor who with blood on his hands, and psychic brothers separated by a car wreck, as well as the aforementioned battered wife and cursed village. What's different than before, though, is that supernatural and alien monsters have been replaced with very real, very human monsters. There are no demons or black holes on this album, and urban angst proves more disturbing that a hundred screaming diz-busters.
Power Underneath Despair, a six year-old song that's already an old favorite to concert goers, is one of the more driving songs on the album. Power stars a prison inmate who spends eight years busting out of prison to settle a score with the gangster that sent him there. These are hard lyrics that might remind some of Frank Miller's "Sin City" comics.
X-Ray Eyes follows Power's sturm and drang with a bit of fast, acoustic wit. X-Ray Eyes somehow manages to be funny and uplifting at the same time, and may be the first song to mention Ray Milland, plucked out eyes, and "lifting the veil of the skies". An odd combination that manages to work very well.
Hammer Back is more urban angst, and sounds like the missing song from Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. This is the best gun-toting lunatic song since the Beastie Boys "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun", and is almost as funny.
Damaged will surprise any BOC fan, since it's one of the few occasions where Buck Dharma gets to handle aggressive vocals. He pulls it off well and, on the spoken-word intro, removes all doubt that he's a Long Island native. A fun but occasionally corny song ("I live for rock and roll" is a lyric that went out of style when Fire of Unknown Origin was released), and one of the band's funkiest. Bassist Danny Miranda move this song and proves to be a valuable member of the team.
Cold Grey Light of Dawn is another story-song, but a confusing one. The story involves a has-been actor, adultery, and murder, but it's hard to figure out who cheated whom, and which character gets the "knife sunk to the hilt." The music is heavy and slinky, and oozes into the inner ear like a hypnotic suggestion. Miranda's bass haunts Dharma's assaultive rhythms, making this one of the most seductive tunes on the album. Someone needs to assign a detective to the song, though, to solve the murder mystery in the lyrics.
Real World is a cynical piece of acoustic-funk (when did Buck Dharma become a Dave Matthews fan?) that pokes fun at the public's need for X-Files-type tabloid stories. "Discs that stretch into cigars/angels buy drinks in skid row bars" Dharma sings, but reveals at the end that the "real world is bizarre enough for me." Real World is one of the best songs on the album but might find itself forgotten amidst the blinding rage of Heaven Forbid's angrier habits.
Live For Me is the only low-point on the album. This song is about the severance of a psychic bond between twin brothers when one is seriously injured by a drunk driver. The lyrics are touching but the music screams early-eighties, and might leave listeners wondering when Journey came into the studio.
What's most troublesome about Live For Me is that, despite sounding dated, despite the absence of any solid guitar hooks, the song finds a way to work. By the end of the song it's hard not to feel serious sympathy for the imaginary brothers, since the psychic-whodoo is downplayed in favor of hitting the very real love between two brothers. People might be fighting the urge to call their siblings as the guitar fades into the sounds of two children playing.
Still Burnin' is a theoretical sequel to Burnin' For You, but the similarities end at the title. A driving bass drum and heavy guitars push this lustful song which doesn't even try to emulate the despair of the original. BOC doesn't screw around with the song: they get in, get out, and provide us with a good rock song.
Heaven Forbid should not have been as good as it is. Creative and professional frustrations should have polluted every track, but the album manages to remain sincere and timely. Instead of accelerating a downward spiral, Heaven Forbid manages to pull the band from a ten year creative nose dive. Simply put, the album is a wonder to behold, and will give the oyster boys a fighting chance to return rock to the radio.

Check out these other Heaven Forbid sites

  • The official Heaven Forbid site at CMC Records... take a listen to "See You In Black".
  • The FAQMAN's HF news, featuring an annotated list of radio station playing the new single.
  • One of the earliest pages dedicated to the new album.
  • Listen to "Harvest Moon", courtesy of

    Other Blue Oyster Cult Sites
    Blue Oyster Cult Online
    The Nexus of the Crisis
    The BOC FAQ
    The BÖC information clearance house.